And That’s The Ballgame
For a few moments it actually seemed like Donald Trump might finally be stalling on what until that point had been a seemingly unassailable ascent to the Republican 2016 nomination. Allegations of assault against his campaign manager, a number of letter-of-the-law delegate victories for Ted Cruz, and the seemingly impossible feat of offending both pro-choice and pro-life activists in an unsightly flip flop (even for Trump’s standards), all combined to create, for at least the span of a few cycles of the twenty four hour cable news industry, the impression of a campaign that was having the sand fall out from under its feet when only a few steps away from the ultimate prize.
Then, the old adage of a week being a lifetime in politics reasserted itself, as Trump romped a commanding victory (one far beyond already high expectations) in his home state of New York, followed by a sweep of five straight primary victories throughout New England. In a triumphant press conference, the Donald proclaimed himself to be the presumptive nominee and it is hard to argue otherwise at this point. The writing is not indisputably on the wall; while the odds are in his favour it is possible that Cruz and Kaisch’s last minute decision to form a pact for a final goal-line stand against him in Indiana combined with an unexpected poor showing in California might still force a contested convention that will ultimately deny Trump the chance to stand against Hillary Clinton in the upcoming contest.
It is a possibility though that grows fainter and fainter by the day. A far stronger than predicted showing in Pennsylvania, where the majority of the state’s “unaffiliated” elected delegates were either Trump supporters or ones who had pledged to vote for whichever candidate carried the state, means that even an upset win in Indiana might not be enough to derail a first ballot victory at the Cleveland convention. As well, polling at both the state and national level shows Trump’s support level spiking, which gives the overall impression that the wider GOP electorate is beginning to shrug their shoulders and say “fuck it” and unfair as it may be once voters reach that frame of mind (where they feel the campaign has simply gone on for too long and they wish it to be over and done with) there often is precious little candidates can do to influence things one way or another. All this points to an impending victory for Trump in the Hoosier state, which even the Cruz campaign is quietly beginning to concede would mean the nomination is a lock.
Even if by some bit of chicanery and deal making in a smoke filled backroom, an upset was pulled off in Cleveland on the convention floor leading to the nomination of some other candidate (perhaps Ben Carson should he ever come back from his endless search for fresh clothes in Florida or Jeb “Please Clap” Bush) at this point it would genuinely be an unfair move. Trump has played the victim card ever since he first glided down the escalator of Trump Tower and declared his candidacy, but denying him the nomination given what has unfolded up till now would actually give him grounds for legitimate grievances for possible the first time in this entire circus of a campaign. However much some may wish to deny it, he has been the undisputed front runner. He has won the most votes, carried the most states, accumulated the most delegates, and more so than any of his opponents can claim to have done so on the backs of a voter coalition that does genuinely cut across nearly all demographics and factions of the party; Cruz has relied nearly without exception on conservative, evangelical voters and Kaisch has eked on a win in precisely one state that he happened to be the governor of, but Donald Trump has by some black magic or otherwise inexplicable act managed to somehow appeal to both moderates and extremists, the religiously devout and irreverent, and all levels of the socioeconomic ladder. Is there really a case to be made that Ted Cruz, who has been described in recent days as “Lucifer in the flesh” by a former GOP Speaker, is the actual consensus candidate the party really wants?
Democrats are likely celebrating widely at this prospect, and it’s undeniable that Hillary Clinton is the favourite to win the general election at this point. Proclaiming a second Clinton presidency a done deal may be premature, however. The same pundits stoutly predicting that Trump will never be able to win the White House are the same ones who loudly announced back when this all first began that the Manhattan billionaire would be out of the race by the end of the summer….and then that he would surely be doomed when the field of candidates began to narrow….and then that Trump could not possibly win a head to head match up…and finally claimed that mathematically he could never win enough delegates to secure a first ballot victory and would come to an inglorious end on the convention floor only to be left with egg all over the face as even that last, final hope looks more and more impossible.
Trump could very possibly win a general election, particularly if he continues in the vein he demonstrated most recently with his speech on foreign policy. Watching it live, one saw a sober, serious candidate outlining a plan for a drastically different approach to world affairs by America; a plan that broke decisively with both the neoconservatism of the right and liberal internationalism of the left that has dominated political discourse in recent years to the woe of all. On point after point, from the need to recognize nations such as China and Russia as rivals that we nevertheless must be able to work with on areas of shared strategic interest, to the need to update NATO from its obsolete Cold War-era foundations, to the necessity of denying Iran a nuclear weapon, I found myself nodding along (much to my surprise); by the time Trump finished speaking I was left with one thought “this is a candidate that can win”. It was a compelling pitch for the need to reorient American foreign policy along the lines of realpolitik and would be especially effective against Hillary Clinton given her most notable “qualification” for the office she seeks seems to be that she served as Secretary of State for a President who may well go down in history as the greatest foreign policy disaster for America ever, and whose few dubious accomplishments largely occurred after she left the position.
To much of the public, Donald Trump seems to be either an Alaric or an Augustus; there is little to no middle ground in the perceptions most have of him. I may be one of the few that is neither a hater or lover of our comb-over candidate. What is undeniably for both camps, however, is that at this point Trump has successfully come within a hair of pulling off a historic first. An outsider with no real political experience, and the backing of almost no one within the Republican Party establishment, is on the verge of taking the nomination; this is being done in spite of Trump insulting possibly every group and individual he conceivable could, committing gaffes and errors that would have doomed any other candidate, and proposing a political agenda that (ironically) is more moderate in some ways than any other leading contender in recent history. Given the total defiance of conventional wisdom that has occurred so far, those seeking to predict what may happen next should trend most carefully.